By Mustapha Jallow and Fatoumatta Conteh
President Adama Barrow on Saturday night asked the nation to shift away from dependence on foreign aids and rely more on domestic revenue mobilization. He said this has become even more necessary in view of the fact that the country’s economy is prone to external shocks.
“While we commend our development partners, who have continually provided tremendous support to the Gambian people in the form of grants and other types of assistance. But we need to shift from depending heavily on foreign aid to relying more on domestic revenue mobilization,’’ Barrow tells Gambian citizens during the 5th edition of Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) most compliant taxpayers award.
The awards were presented to the winners by President Barrow, who had presided over the award ceremony that was held on 4rd March 2023, at Kairaba Beach Hotel, where several companies, banks, supermarkets and other various institutions received awards for first, second and third positions.
The night-event attracted hundreds of people from different walks of life, such as cabinet ministers, senior government officials, heads of security services, businessmen/women, GRA officials and other staff, private business institutions, other business enteritis, musicians and so on.
While it is the obligation of every citizen and entity to shoulder their fair share of the tax burden, Barrow described the award-ceremony as a “laudable initiative’’ that would recognize and commend those taxpayers – who went through extra miles to fulfill their obligations.
“They (tax-obligators) have taken up and fulfilled a huge responsibility, making it quite fitting and an encouragement that we acknowledged and recognized their efforts. I direct this message at all taxpayers, with due recognition to those present,’’ he added.
According to Barrow, the successful revenue performance is a direct result of the innovative strategies implemented of late; saying one of them is the use of modern technology systems and another is the streamlining of the tax collection process. These initiatives, he added have improved efficiency and made it easier for citizens to comply with their tax obligations, thus reducing tax fraud and tax evasion.
In 2022, he said: “My government was left with no option but to intervene using both fiscal and monetary tools to ease the cost burden on the public. For this purpose, we spent over D1.6 billion as fuel subsidy. Although it provided the much needed relief for the Gambian people, over D1.6 billion of tax revenue was forgone by government to make fuel internally affordable during the crisis. The money could have been spent on development projects.’’
Barrow further assured his government will meet its obligation of creating the enabling environment and fiscal space for the private sector to thrive.
“In conclusion, I encouraged all taxpayers to continue supporting the state through your contributions, and never lose sight of the important role you play in building a better future for us all,’’ he encouraged.
Yankuba Darboe, the Commissioner General for GRA said the Domestic Taxes Department accounted for 51.2% of the total revenue collection for the first time since the establishment of GRA.
“We are here to honour those taxpayers that have shown exemplary commitment to tax compliance. These taxpayers have not only fulfilled their legal obligations but have gone above and beyond to ensure that they contribute their fair share of the tax burden. Paying taxes is not always an easy task and it is commendable that the taxpayers that will be recognised and awarded tonight (on March 4rd 2023) have embraced it as part of their corporate social responsibility. By doing so, they have demonstrated their commitment to the welfare of our society and have set an example for others to follow and we hope that this will inspire a culture of voluntary compliance in our economy,’’ stated Darboe.
“I would like to seize this opportunity to congratulate all the taxpayers being recognized tonight for their outstanding tax compliance records. Your contribution to our society is invaluable, and I urge you to continue your efforts in building a prosperous country for our citizenry,’’ he added.
GRA head thanked the finance ministry, particularly both local and international partners in development for their support for the years.
“I will not do justice, if I conclude my speech without thanking the media for their role in educating our taxpayers. Your role in educating and empowering taxpayers is essential in our taxpayer education and compliance programs. We recognize and deeply appreciate the role you play in enlightening our esteemed taxpayers on their civic duty. As we say, revenue collection is everyone’s business. It is a cooperative and collaborative effort with our stakeholders, and the media is one such instrumental stakeholder. I also wish to thank the Board, Management and staff of GRA for the support throughout these years. Our year-on-year success is a testimony to the tireless efforts of our staff, who have shown exceptional professionalism and expertise in their respective roles,” said Darboe.
Abdoulie Jobe, Minister for Energy and Petroleum, while reading the speech on behalf the Finance Minister said the ministry finance will continue to support and collaborate with GRA as well other development partners such as IMF, ADB, World-Bank among others in strengthening the reform agenda of the GRA.